LONDON — Chelsea left it late but came from behind to beat Watford 4-2 and avoid a third straight defeat in the Premier League on Saturday.
Pedro had given Chelsea the lead in the 12th minute with a superb curling strike but Abdoulaye Doucoure leveled on the stroke of halftime and Roberto Pereyra put Watford in front four minutes after the break.
Watford wasted a number of chances to extend its advantage before substitute Michy Batshuayi headed in the equalizer.
Cesar Azpilicueta gave Chelsea the lead three minutes from time and Batshuayi doubled his tally in stoppage time to secure victory for the defending champion.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s relief was clear as he passionately celebrated Azpilicueta’s goal with fans.
“We had to dig in until the last minute and we showed our spirit,” Azpilicueta said. “It wasn’t our best game but we got an important win for our confidence after three games without winning.
“We started really well and had chances to score the second. The confidence was a bit lower because of their second goal but we didn’t give up. It’s a big win for us. We know it’s a long season and will have ups and downs but this is the first step to get the confidence up.”
Chelsea leapfrogged a point above Watford into fourth place. It is six points below leader Manchester City, which hosts Burnley later.
“It was a really unfair result. We were in control most of the time,” Watford coach Marco Silva said. “We didn’t create a lot in the first half but we controlled the match. In the second half, for 35 to 40 minutes, I saw one team playing.
“We had clear chances to finish the match at 3-1 but they achieved an unfair result. I think everyone saw this on the pitch.”
Chelsea was without a win since September after league losses to City and Crystal Palace. Conte’s side had also chucked away a two-goal advantage in drawing with Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday.
The hosts took a controversial lead when they were awarded a corner despite the ball appearing to have come off the foot of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
The short corner was pulled back to Pedro who curled a fantastic strike in off the top left hand corner of the goal frame.
Watford was the better side for much of the first period and netted a deserved equalizer in first-half stoppage time.
Chelsea failed to properly clear a free kick and it went out for a throw-in which Jose Holebas launched into the area. David Luiz attempted to head the ball out but it dropped down for Doucoure to fire home through a crowd of players.
Watford began the second half much as it had ended the first and took the lead early on when Richarlison picked out an unmarked Pereyra, who drilled the ball past Thibaut Courtois.
Richarlison missed two easy chances either side of the goal and Watford had further chances to extend its advantage before Chelsea made it pay for its profligacy.
The home side leveled in the 71st when Batshuayi headed Pedro’s cross from the right into the far corner.
Another substitute, Willian, had a hand in Chelsea’s third as he crossed for Azpilicueta to head home.
Batshuayi secured the victory in the fifth minute of stoppages as Watford conceded possession and he held off Miguel Britos to lift the ball over goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.